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What a tennis coach taught us about inclusion

The industry Dive In festival is deliberately loud and proud to make sure as many people as possible do not miss it - just look at the logo. But the point is not just to get people on the bandwagon for ‘diversity’ (a necessary buzzword) for three days in a year, but to get them thinking and doing.

Many people asked what our guest speaker for Dive In Glasgow, Judy Murray OBE, had to do with diversity and inclusion in insurance. She didn’t bring an expert view on the HR policies that could break the glass ceiling, or a lecture on how male, pale and stale the industry may be.

What she delivered however, was an honest account of one person's experience.

When we talk about our industry's inclusion challenges, it's often at a macro level, how it won’t thrive or compete if it doesn't get better. This is true, but what gets lost is the personal experience and the personal responsibility. Diversity and inclusion is about YOU. What can you do, and what are you doing? How have you felt excluded, side-lined or ignored and how has that affected you? Judy offered us some thoughts.

Do you have a voice and are you using it?

Judy was entertaining and engaging. We all laughed at the right places and hung onto her every word. So when she shared stories of hiding in loos at formal events to avoid talking to people, or dreading having to make acceptance speeches at awards dos, it was hard to believe. She forced herself to speak out, whether that was to help get tennis taken seriously in Scotland, or to bring attention to the experiences of women and girls within the male dominated sport. For her, there was too much to lose by keeping quiet and there are people today having more positive experiences because of what she said.

In whose interest are the decisions in your team being made?

'Women tend to make decisions in the best interest of other women' said Judy bluntly to the Glasgow crowd. ‘So we need more of them in decision making roles, whether that's sport or outside of sport’. If leadership teams are homogeneous, surprise surprise, their decisions might just support the interest of those that look like them. Think about what that means for a lot of people you know or work with? It's why 'diversity of thought' (another buzz-phrase) is so important.

How do you make people FEEL?

'Always remember how you make somebody feel about themselves is important', said Judy, reflecting on her many years of coaching. We talk about attracting and retaining diverse talent. How does that talent feel in your organisation? How does that affect how long they stay, and what do they say to others about their experiences? Feelings count and we don't tend to thrive or stay in places we do not like.

Can you create opportunities? I bet at least one person did for you!

Being put off the sport because you didn't see many people who looked like you or not reaching your potential because your parents couldn't afford private lessons were barriers to entry for tennis that Judy recognised. For her, the reality was a whole lot of talented people would not make it through to tennis without an active campaign to support, encourage and offer them opportunity. We can all look around and think about the barriers some of those around us face. They are barriers that won’t come down on their own...

You can listen to some of Judy’s thoughts at Dive In Glasgow here:

Dive In Glasgow

Last updated 03/10/2017